Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Family Fun Night
When: 6-8 p.m. Sept. 15
Where: downtown Gainesville square
How much: Free to attend, donations benefit CURE Childhood Cancer
Come October, pink ribbons will be fixed to lapels and mailboxes, NFL players will don pink cleats and everyone will know it is breast cancer awareness month.
But September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and local families affected by childhood cancer hope to increase awareness.
“Our goal is to get Gainesville to go gold,” said Courtney Allgood, mother of 3-year-old Brecklynn, who was diagnosed with pleuropulmonary blastoma in November. “We have so many children in this community — I mean, right here — that are fighting this disease. So we want to support all those kids and also raise awareness for the future children who will unfortunately face this too.”
The Allgoods and other families affected by childhood cancer will be raising funds and awareness throughout the month, starting with a “big event” from 6-8 p.m. Sept. 15 on the downtown square.
“We’re doing a family night, with a carnival-type theme,” Allgood said. “We’re going to have cotton candy, popcorn, the Frozen Frenzee truck, games, face painting. We’re going to do that for the whole community, and the mayor will come and do a proclamation for childhood cancer month.”
The event is free, but donations will benefit the organization CURE Childhood Cancer. Allgood said some vendors will donate part of their proceeds, and coin drop jars will be available.
The month will also include an emphasis on awareness. Allgood said she and Carol Ann Ligon — whose son Eli was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal carcinoma in March 2015 — have worked with Gainesville and Hall County school districts to coordinate days dedicated to childhood cancer awareness.
“In an effort to bring more awareness to our school communities about how childhood cancer is impacting families in our schools, the Hall County School District is doing a special promotion,” said communications coordinator Gordon Higgins in an email. “All of our high school football teams will wear gold, the official color of childhood cancer, as part of their uniforms at a home football game in September to honor the children and families in our community who are courageously battling cancer.”
Allgood said she ordered just under 400 socks to outfit all the players in the county. She said North Hall High School in particular is going “all out” and will wear gold for their homecoming game.
“They’re taking a particular interest, because they have a childhood cancer survivor as a student at North Hall,” she said.
Gainesville High School is doing the same, where Eli is a ninth-grader.
The large evergreen tree at the corner of Green Street and Academy Street in downtown Gainesville will be covered in gold bows throughout the month. Local business Megaprint created 200 yard signs to cover the city, and Allgood hopes the businesses on Green Street will allow signs to be fixed in the front yards.
Finally, Peach State Bank on Washington Street donated its billboard to display a childhood cancer message.
Both the Allgood and Ligon families also have personal fundraising efforts. Eli and Brecklynn are both “Rally kids,” meaning they are selling Rally Foundation shirts and all the money from T-shirt purchases goes directly to research.
Allgood said Brecklynn is “doing so well.” She’s finished with chemotherapy and will have two to three weeks of radiation on tumor spots on her spine and leg. She’ll then have surgery to remove her port and gastronomy tube.
She has started preschool, and is very excited about her new ballet classes, according to her mother.
Meanwhile, Eli has been receiving biweekly infusions of a new drug called Nivolumab for nearly eight months, and has had no measurable cancer in his lungs since, according to his mother.
“It is vital that we have more funding for Childhood Cancer Research,” Eli’s Rally page states. “Our children deserve to have access to safer drugs that will allow them to live the long, healthy lives they deserve.”
But thousands of children die from cancer every year, and it remains the leading cause of death by disease in children, according to CURE.
Allgood said she hopes childhood cancer can receive the same hype and awareness breast cancer receives in October of every year.
It is her and Ligon’s intention to make childhood cancer awareness activities an annual thing, and to “go all out” every year.
“Our biggest goal is to simply raise awareness,” Allgood said. “Everyone knows to think pink in October, but we want children to have the same thing.”